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Rancho Naturalista Lodge, Costa Rica, or within the Land of Espresso and Chocolate – 10,000 Birds


    On that superb day, I noticed ten critically endangered birds, representing 8% of their Costa Rican, or 2% of their international inhabitants!! However, let’s begin in the beginning.

    In my earlier put up, I handled Rancho Naturalista Lodge itself and birding inside their personal reserve. Now, I’ll transfer away from it, visiting close by lakes and rivers with Rancho in-house guides Mercedes and Harry, and our driver Daniel behind the wheel of the mighty Isuzu D-Max.

    Recent and misty morning quickly become a heat and sunny day, with a sky filled with swallows: Blue-and-white, Southern Tough-winged and Barn Swallows. We had been heading to La Angostura Lake (cowl photograph and sure, just like the fragrant bitter, nobody was capable of inform me why), the biggest water physique within the Turrialba space, created by damming the Reventazon River. Driving an enormous 4×4 throughout a tiny, improvised bridge, Daniel sneaked by way of the forest to the shallow again aspect the place the river enters the lake.

    Black-bellied Whistling-Geese, Muscovy Geese and Blue-winged Teals had been round us, along with Inexperienced, Nice and Little Blue Herons, Cattle and Nice White Egrets, Black-crowned and Yellow-crowned Night time-Herons, plus one regionally uncommon Pinnated Bittern within the floating vegetation, in addition to a number of dozen Neotropical Cormorants. A Wooden Stork lands in a tree, whereas one Neotropical River Otter swims throughout and climbs a floating log.

    A number of Southern Lapwings and American Black Vultures on a small mudbar, and one thing smaller in entrance of them – two regionally uncommon Brief-billed Dowitchers. Different shorebirds included Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpipers. Two Purple Gallinules, two Limpkins… Raptors included Turkey Vultures, Ospreys, White-tailed, Gray-headed (so nicely seen in a close-by tree!) and Snail Kites, Roadside and Broad-winged Hawk, Crested and beautiful Yellow-headed Caracara, plus a Merlin.

    Because the solar was getting stronger, we, the birders, had been sitting within the open so our views wouldn’t be obstructed. Daniel the driving force was means smarter, discovering the one shadowy spot subsequent to the D-Max.

    Since I needed to purchase some real tastes of Costa Rica, we continued to C.A.T.I.E. campus gardens – the Tropical Agricultural Analysis and Larger Schooling Centre, positioned 3 km east of the city of Turrialba. The campus has a pond (above), partially lined by hyacinths filled with Northern Jacanas, the place I attempted to identify at the least one caiman (alas, with out success), a botanical backyard and manicured grounds (with fairly a number of Inexperienced Ibises) along with a memento store. Nonetheless, the extraordinary Boat-billed Heron was nowhere to be seen. Into the memento store for some native espresso, chocolate and cocoa, then a espresso mug with a picture of a Three-toed Sloth and the Discipline Information to the Mammals of Costa Rica, and off we go. Driving across the bamboo thickets on a small island within the lake, Mercedes noticed it! At the least one Boat-billed Heron awaited us within the thickets.

    The subsequent space was the Pacuare River Gorge, which options Class III and IV rapids. Now we had been in Finca Tres Equis, a household cocoa farm (if I understood nicely, it interprets as Triple X Farm) and a non-public reserve of over 300 hectares, of which greater than 70 p.c is a forest, representing a part of a Jaguar hall. Daniel drove down a tough monitor in the direction of the river, and every so often we might cease and look ahead to some trogons, toucans, manakins or jacamars. One of many first stops yielded two Crested Guans with their vivid pink throat wattles, excessive in roadside timber. Subsequent stops provided White-crowned Parrot and Barred Parakeets, Chestnut-sided and Canada Warblers, Collared Aracari, half a dozen Purple-throated Fruitcrows… I heard a robust double-nock of an enormous Pale-billed Woodpecker, however the hen didn’t current itself to our eyes. There was a Gartered Trogon proper above me, and one cooperative Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth on a cecropia tree, elevating its head to smile at us. A bunch (perhaps 4-5 ex.) of Panamanian White-faced Capuchins greeted us, earlier than they determined to vacate the premises.

    On the Pacuare river financial institution there was a bunch of rafters on the point of sort out the noisy waves. The one factor noisier, making the rapids barely audible, had been the Cicadas on the alternative financial institution! Above us had been Chestnut-collared and White-collared Swifts, whereas Lengthy-billed Hermit and Bronze-tailed Plumeleteer visited a close-by flowering bush. In a rock-garden in the midst of the river, one Fasciated Tiger-Heron was fishing, with each Amazon and Inexperienced Kingfishers close by. I saved an eye fixed on the rafters, desirous to see how they confronted the standing waves, solely to identify them utilizing the opposite fork within the river and avoiding them altogether!

    Nice Inexperienced Macaw in Costa Rica / Wikimedia Commons

    By now, you distinctly do not forget that I discussed some ten critically endangered birds. No, I can’t reveal their whereabouts, they had been someplace round. I used to be fortunate to watch Nice Inexperienced Macaws on my earlier journey, too, however then they had been simply silhouettes flying by way of the mist. This time I noticed them with 10s in vivid sunshine, solely ten metres above, seeing each element: monumental lime-green parrots with blue flight feathers and loud, raucous calls!

    Like many different giant birds, Nice Inexperienced Macaws are monogamous and kind robust pair bonds for all times, so robust that even when the pair flies with a big flock, the birds maintain shut to one another and nearly contact their wings in flight. Younger birds, at the least in captivity, turn out to be mature after 5 years and begin breeding after 6 or 7 years.

    This species qualifies as Critically Endangered as a result of intensive habitat destruction and seize for the cagebird commerce are inflicting extraordinarily fast and persevering with inhabitants declines. Their favorite meals are seeds of almendro tree, which is selectively logged in Costa Rica, whereas pineapple plantations are quickly increasing and changing tropical forest habitat.

    The subpopulation in northern Costa Rica and southern Nicaragua numbered 834 people in 2009, however was estimated at lower than 200 people, equating to c. 130 mature people, in 2019 (Monge et al. 2010; Macaw Restoration Community 2019). This equates to a decline of 99% over three generations for Nicaragua and Costa Rica (IUCN 2019). Primarily based on nationwide numbers, the worldwide inhabitants is now estimated to quantity at the least 525 mature people; and to account for uncertainty and an extra inhabitants in southern Panama, the worldwide inhabitants is positioned within the band of mere 500-1,000 mature people. And I used to be blessed with a number of excellent sightings, totaling to eight% of their Costa Rican and a pair of% of their international inhabitants!! 

    Coming to Costa Rica, I wanted just a few dozen species to cross my first huge threshold: a thousand species. I got here with 957, and began to gather my birds like an Acorn Woodpecker collects its nuts. And after certainly one of these excursions, I used to be having a beer on the veranda at Rancho Naturalista Lodge, whereas coming into my notes into eBird. I knew that I had most likely crossed the edge, however there was an opportunity that I used to be I at 999 hen species! Or 998!! My OCD wouldn’t stand that! I wanted a properly rounded determine. It was a sigh of aid once I found that my species #1000 grew to become a Brief-tailed Hawk. Subsequent purpose: 1100 species, to cowl about 10% of the whole. Sounds affordable and must be inside attain.

    Southeast of the Caribbean-slope city of Turrialba and excessive on a hill overlooking riverine forests and occasional farms of the Tuis River valley, the not-to-be-missed Rancho Naturalista is the proper introduction to birding Costa Rica: relaxed, pleasant place, serving scrumptious regionally sourced gourmand meals – and it’s important to shovel birds off the trail to go by way of.

    Learn the earlier stage in When Harry Met Mercedes.

    Extra about highlands and Casa Tangara dowii within the weeks to return.